Our story so far…
Shining Hope Foundation has come a long way since its launch in July 2010. But one thing we have been committed to from the start has been our defining vision and philosophy – that the projects we support across the world should take a holistic approach to safeguarding local wildlife, natural resources and supporting local communities.
From July 2010 to 2013, Shining Hope supported HUTAN, a French NGO based in Borneo and Malaysia, which carries out orangutan research and habitat conservation, and engages with local communities to support this.
The work with HUTAN was a great success and in this time we managed to safeguard important parcels of land where ecosystems were at risk. HUTAN’s Wildlife Warden Team also carried out over 335 patrols – preventing and arresting illegal hunters and smugglers, and they built three tree bridges to connect fragmented forests and preserved the habitat of primate species.
Towards the end of 2012, we decided that HUTAN was now in a sustainable and strong position, and the time was right to support another project and develop our partnerships with other organisations…
When we were in the process of selecting a new project, I spent four months in India volunteering at another NGO, mainly in Bangalore and Bodhgaya, before arriving in the Bihar region; here I discovered a completely different side to India.I was shocked by the people’s living conditions and how remote they were. Sanitisation was poor; water wells went un-repaired, and little was done to ensure a reliable electricity supply. The local villagers were left to fend for themselves; cut off from nutritious food, safe drinking water and modern Indian society. I saw people in desperate need of medical attention, but no one who could help.
Despite this, I experienced the warmest and most excited welcome in each and every village I visited. Everyone was happy to share their story of how Karuna-Shechen – a small but ambitious humanitarian organisation that supports the underprivileged populations in the greater Himalayan region – had helped them or a member of their family. It was incredible to feel so much joy from people who had so little. I was struck by how such a small charity could make such a big difference for so many people, and this was what led Shining Hope towards identifying our new partner.
Ultimately, the founder Matthieu Ricard inspired us to join with Karuna-Shechen, together with his charity’s commitment that 100% of its funding would go straight into their charitable projects. Matthieu, a Buddhist monk who has led some amazing projects to help thousands of people in the Himalayas, shares a message of hope and love, and focuses his work on these forgotten communities. This fits so perfectly with Shining Hope’s core values of sustainability, compassion and transparency.
The Karuna-Shechen team already worked closely with villages in Bihar (North East India), but wanted to expand their projects to a wider group of communities in the region so we saw this fantastic opportunity to get involved and further the great work that was already being done.
With the advice of the WISE company of philanthropy advisors who assess the extent of our chosen NGOs’ expectations and needs before Shining Hope formally commits to a project, our partnership with Karuna-Shechen began in September 2012. Since then, we have worked together to revolutionise the health, educational, environmental and social wellbeing of dozens of villages. We have also worked together to identify six new villages around Bodhgaya to receive healthcare support, medicine and education by mobile clinic teams, meaning that there are now 18 villages benefiting from Karuna-Schechen and Shining Hope’s support.
We have also been able to help Karuna-Shechen with the introduction of non-formal education (NFE) to 10 new villages in addition to the 6 villages where the scheme was already running. In addition, Shining Hope now supports a fantastic programme whereby small groups of illiterate grandmothers are sent to the Barefoot College in Tilonia (Rajasthan, North West India), for six months to train as solar engineers. With our support, they will return to their villages to provide electricity for hundreds of houses – improving the quality of life of over 2,550 villagers and empowering women across communities to become educated and determine their own destinies.
Looking ahead, we hope that in supporting Karuna-Schechen’s vital work, we can deliver maximum impact and long-term sustainability, leaving them in a stronger position to attract other potential charitable partners in the future.
Our partnership has only just begun, but the potential for reaching out to more and more communities, to provide vital healthcare, education and social support over the next three years, is huge. I look forward to sharing more inspiring stories over the coming months.
Marie is a Trustee and co-founder of the Shining Hope Foundation. She oversees the charity’s relationships with its partners abroad to ensure maximum project effectiveness. She has also spent several months working on Shining Hope’s projects in India and Malaysia.